State leaders discuss Minnesota’s plan to vaccinate those ages 5-11, families grateful

Minnesota health care providers and others will begin vaccinating children ages 5-11 this week, now that the Pfizer shot has received federal approval for that age group.

Mall of America’s community vaccination site had 500 doses available Wednesday, but the appointments had filled up by early afternoon.

The mall put up signs stating: "We apologize. All walk-up and appointment slots are FULL for today."

Lindsey Barringer’s two daughters — 5-year-old Gracie and 6-year-old Ruby — were among the first young kids in Minnesota to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

"I feel like we’re going to Disney World. We’re getting that reward we’ve worked so hard for, but the difference is, it’s possibly life or death," said Barringer.

She said her kids will be able to return to dance class and gymnastics now that they are getting vaccinated.

"So much relief. It’s been an explosion of all the anxiety from the last two years. Just finally, we finally made it," Barringer said.

A spokesperson for the vaccine clinic at the mall said they would have 1,500 doses Thursday.

They also revamped the community vaccine site to make it child-friendly, with brightly colored dividers between stations, balloons and Disney-themed bandages.

Wednesday, Gov. Tim Walz and Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm discussed the state’s plan to vaccinate eligible kids. Walz says the vaccine will arrive in waves this week and that Minnesota providers have ordered as many doses as possible from the federal government.

Walz also urged parents who are looking for vaccines to have patience.

"These first few days, there might be a little bit of a bottleneck, certainly at different times. We understand the sense of urgency you have. That’s why I think the broad distribution of these should make it that, if you want to get it, you’re going to find it over the next week or so," Walz said.

The Minnesota Department of Health said the state’s initial allocation of the 10-microgram Pfizer vaccine for children is 178,000 doses, with pharmacies scheduled to get an additional 83,000 doses from the federal government.

MDH said all of the doses are expected to arrive in the state by Tuesday, noting that many are already here or are in transit.

More than 1,100 healthcare clinics and pharmacies have signed up to administer the vaccines to children ages five to 11.

Commissioner Jan Malcolm said MDH recommends all children in this age group receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

"These vaccines are recommended for all kids without regard to any underlying conditions and without regard to whether they’ve had COVID previously or not," Malcolm explained.

The Minnesota Academy of Pediatrics also voiced support Wednesday, stating that the vaccine is shown to be safe and effective in children ages five and up.

"If the risks of getting the disease far outweigh any of the risks you might get from the vaccination, then give the vaccination," said Dr. Sheldon Berkowitz, president of the Minnesota Academy of Pediatrics.

This week, the Governor’s Office will partner with three school districts to host vaccine clinics, with an additional 15 school-based vaccination clinics in high-need areas planned around Minnesota over the next three weeks.

Children’s Minnesota told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS their hospitals are ready to administer vaccines to children, providing this statement:

"Children’s Minnesota is scheduled to receive the newly approved Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11 this week. We plan to begin scheduling vaccinations within a day of receiving the vaccine in our primary clinics. We encourage all families to get vaccinated to stop the spread of Covid-19. Keep checking the Children’s Minnesota website for more information at childrensmn.org/covid19."

More than 500,000 children across Minnesota are now eligible for the vaccine.

The state has launched a new website to help parents and guardians of 5- to 11-year-old children find a vaccine and answer questions they may have.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.